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Nursing Students Travel to Guatemala Medical Clinic

Five Pennsylvania College of Technology nursing students recently traveled to Guatemala, where they experienced firsthand the cultural diversity of health care that they had read about in their textbooks.

As part of a study abroad course, the students spent seven days at a medical clinic in the small community of Nueva Santa Rosa. They were accompanied by Christine B. Kavanagh, instructor of nursing programs, and joined by a larger group of volunteers from Glens Falls Medical Mission. Twice each year, the Glens Falls, New York-based group operates a weeklong medical clinic in a Nueva Santa Rosa church compound. The nearest major hospital for the community is almost two hours away.

Penn College student H. Alex Simcox takes a patient’s blood pressure during a study abroad experience at a medical clinic in Nueva Santa Rosa, Guatemala. He was among five Penn College students making the trip.
Penn College student H. Alex Simcox takes a patient’s blood pressure during a study abroad experience at a medical clinic in Nueva Santa Rosa, Guatemala. He was among five Penn College students making the trip.

While at the clinic, the volunteers saw about 1,300 patients, most often communicating through translators.

“During classes, our textbook has a section on cultural diversity,” said H. Alex Simcox, of Montgomery. “We actually got to experience that.”

They took turns in five areas of the clinic: triage, where they directed patients to appropriate specialists; dental, where they provided fluoride varnish to children; pediatrics, where they measured the children’s height, weight and head circumference to help indicate their nutrition status and state of health; women’s health, where they assisted with exams and treatment; and general medicine, where they assisted with treatment and provided basic education.

While Penn College offers a variety of study abroad courses, this was the first for nursing students. In addition to the active learning that took place on-site in Guatemala, the students spent time before their late-October voyage learning about the culture they would see and completing online modules to prepare for their dental work. Shanin L. Dougherty, coordinator of international programs for Penn College, hopes to continue to offer the course and accompanying service trip every fall.

The experience was a first not only for Penn College’s Nursing Program, but also for the experienced volunteers of Glens Falls Medical Mission, who had never before accepted such a large group of nursing students.

“They proved themselves, just by being flexible and positive,” Kavanagh said. “There was nothing beneath them.”

The students’ attitudes were undoubtedly affected by that of their patients.

“People had a world of issues, medical and otherwise,” said Ashley M. Otto, of Lehighton. Many of those issues, she explained, were more complicated in Guatemala than they would be in Pennsylvania, because medications and treatments are not as easy to access. “But they were so positive,” she added.

In addition to Otto and Simcox, students joining the mission were Kelsey L. Maneval, of McAlisterville; Christina M. Mossman, of Wellsboro; and Katherine Santoianni, of Williamsport.

Penn College also offers study abroad courses that travel to: France and Italy to study new collision repair processes and techniques; Europe and the U.K. to study historic art and architecture alongside modern sustainable building practices; Central and South America to study the mathematical systems of the Maya; and Dominican Republic to provide dental hygiene education to the public and participate in clinical training.

To learn more about nursing majors at Penn College, call 570-327-4519.

For information about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.


Stephanie Kennedy,

Great job, Alex!

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